It’s graduation season. Along with this celebratory time of year comes the freshness of new Spring growth around us. All things are new and alive! All things are also covered in allergy-inducing pollen, but we’ll not dwell on that right now. Graduates from all seasons of life see the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next. Whether it’s a preschool, high school or college class flipping their tassel, there is a feeling of finality and an eager anticipation for what lies beyond the ceremony.
This is a good, right and natural thing. The feeling of accomplishment in life’s ventures is encouraging to our hearts. And when we do it for God’s glory, He is magnified among all people. Our deepest thanks should be given for each and every accomplishment, success and victory. God has authored it, given it for our benefit and for His glory.
Contrary to these earthly milestones we celebrate this time of year, the Christian life has no such commencement until that Day we enter eternity. We have no use for “Senioritis” as our coursework and assignments remain undone until we are called Home. We can’t watch the clock for dismissal as only God knows the number of our days. Because of these things, we must keep our mindset on the pursuit of God with endurance and hope.
In Philippians 3:12–14, Paul uses some important words to illustrate that we are always an undergrad while on this earth:
 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own,because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Paul uses the analogy of a runner to describe the pursuit of spiritual growth and Christlikeness. In this example, we can see how our finish line, our graduation, is always before us. We must remember:
We have not yet arrived. Although we have the imputed righteousness of Christ applied to our lives, we still deal with daily death to sin and a perpetual pursuit of holiness. As Paul states, Christlikeness is his goal and he has not yet arrived. And none of us will arrive fully on this earth. Our refinement is still taking place.
We press on to make it our own. Why? “…because Christ Jesus has made me his own”. With the goal of Christlikeness ahead, we strive towards it. The Greek wording here pictures a racer with aggressive straining towards what lies ahead. We can see who God has made us to be and we pursue it. In a strange twist, we are always becoming what we became at salvation.
We strive for one thing. Our one thing is the pursuit of Christ; being conformed to Him (Rom. 12:2, 8:29). Paul synthesizes the whole of sanctification into this one thought. This is aim and true desire. Our hearts tend to easily wander from what we are left here to do. We must resist chasing temporal pleasures that are sure to distract us.
We look toward our goal. What lies ahead is of utmost importance. “…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” Our past is behind us, the goal is ahead. What runner would stop halfway through a race and simply rely on what he had accomplished in the first half? Are the first half’s accomplishments enough? As an undergrad in the Christian life, our previous coursework is not enough for the assignments not given yet. Our past efforts cannot sustain us for the work yet to be done. What student would stop halfway through an exam and claim that the work on the first half was sufficient? Would a student be wise to rely on last semester’s grades to suffice for future assignments? Of course not! Our striving must continue toward the goal. Relying on past victories or dwelling on past failures can hinder us from finishing well. We must put Him in our sights and never look away.
Many of us will see loved ones and relatives walk across a stage and receive a piece of paper representing countless hours of hard work. It’s the end and, simultaneously, a beginning. While we will not experience such a spiritual graduation on earth, there will be a day when we will rest from our work in Heaven. We will be like Jesus and see him face to face. This is the ultimate graduation. Our faith will be sight. We will graduate from the temporal to the eternal. But class is still in session until that Day comes. Let us strive and strain towards Christ and his likeness. We haven’t arrived quite yet.
*This piece was originally written by Justin for “Our City On A Hill”. Check out their site and the original post here.
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